I liked “Winter Hours” so much that from the first time I listened to it and after their haunting show here in Greece some months ago, I was persuaded to have a conversation with Mike Hill, the man behind the spaceship of Tombs. Mike is one of the veterans of the underground hardcore scene, following different paths and achieving new goals, so let’s see what keeps him busy these days.
- First of all congratulations for “Winter Hours”! That was a massive release. I could not believe how good the material was when I first listened to it. Would you like to introduce yourself a bit and explain what happened with Anodyne and why now we are talking about Tombs? “Lifetime of Grey Skies” was a freakin gorgeous release, then, suddenly, no Anodyne. Could you maybe fill the details of the transition?
- Mike: Anodyne just naturally ran it’s course; we all felt like we had accomplished all of our creative goals and that it was time to move on to other things. After “Lifetime of Grey Skies” was out and we toured on it, we all were moving in different directions creatively; Josh and Joel went on to form Defeatist, one of the top grind outfits in the States (for sure!) and I continued on to the short-lived Versoma project.
- I saw you in Athens, Greece with a new drummer, Andrew Hernandez of ASRA fame. There was a total black metal approach in the songs, old and new ones. How did that come? Do you listen a lot to black metal these days? Does the addition of Andrew have anything to do with that?
- Mike: The addition of Andrew definitely helped us realize somehow of the musical goals I had because he’s far more technical than the drummer that we worked with on the “Winter Hours” recording. There has always been a black metal influence on most of the material that I’ve been involved with, even if it’s more subtle at times. The latest Tombs incarnation is probably the most direct expression of this influence and Andrew’s playing is a key part in that.
- Did Relapse help you with the release of Winter Hours and in what way?
- Mike: We have a recording contract with Relapse, so they play a critical part in the release of all of our material from Winter Hours onward until the terms of our contract are fulfilled. They covered all production costs and took care of the promotion of the record.
- In Winter Hours, Tombs tend to have a more metal approach instead of the one in the first record. What has changed and how long have you been rehearsing the new material?
- Mike: The metal approach is always there; I’ve been playing in metal/hardcore bands for my entire life and I identify with metal. I consider Tombs a metal band in the same way that Godflesh was a metal band. The sound or influence ebbs and flows depending on the mood or vibe at the time of the material’s composition. I always strive to move forward and mature as a song writer so writing “more metal” or “less metal” isn’t a conscious effort. As far as new material, we’ve been writing and rehearsing new material pretty much as soon as we finished recording Winter Hours. The process never stops; we write and rehearse constantly, always striving to move forward.
- What are the lyrics about? Is there a concept behind Tombs?
- Mike: Winter Hours is primarily about the End Times and Man’s slow decent into ruin. It also deals with fear on an existential level. For example “Seven Stars, the Angel of Death” is a study in fear about the inevitable end of the world in a more cosmic sense. The new material is still in progress so I’m not exactly sure what the subject of the material is. When I started the band, I wanted to get away from overtly “personal” songs dealing with relationships and that sort of thing; instead I wanted to focus on more esoteric subjects like spirituality and fear.
- I know you have different side projects. Would you like to tell us some things about them and which releases are out from those projects? How do you manage to have Tombs and all the other stuff in the same time?
- Mike: There’s Sino Basila, a recording project that was released about three years ago. That is completely sold out at this point. I also play in a band called King Generator with Dave Witte (Municipal Waste, Burnt by the Sun Etc) and Jamie Thomson (The Process, Shank) that is pretty much a straight forward hardcore band in that late-90’s style. We have a 7-song, one-sided ep available oin Tankcrimes. I have a more recent, active project called Vasilek which will have a release available on Black Box Recordings later this year. How do I manage all of this? That’s a good question; I suppose, I just put my head down and run forward.
- Tombs, for me, have a noise rock foundation in their approach. I mean Helmet is one influence I can detect in some songs of Tombs, in a good way. Do you see that the same way too? Is that something that will never fade away because of the Anodyne era?
- Mike: I definitely agree that there is a strong noise rock influence in the band. I’ve always been way into bands like Helmet, Unsane, Tar, most of the AmRep catalog. That will most likely remain a cornerstone of my influences.
- How much do you enjoy playing live as a band? I know that you tour a lot.
- Mike: Live is what it’s all about.
- You are one of the guys who have been for a long time into the scene that boasted bands like Versoma, Lickgoldensky, Burnt by the Sun, Converge and others. How do you see this particular scene presently and why, in your opinion, some of these bands are not with us today?
- Mike: I feel like the era of those bands has come and gone. The bands you mentioned had more to do with the scene of the late 90’s than anything that is happening these days. I can’t speak about Converge because I’m not personally involved with any of them. Converge and Dillinger Escape Plan are, in my opinion, the only two bands that seem to have made a career out of playing that particular style of hardcore. Bands like Lickgoldensky, Burnt by the Sun and to some extent Versoma were part of the “D.I.Y. Hardcore” world of house shows and news print zines. True, that sort of thing goes on today, but the heyday was really in the 90’s.
- It seems that as a guitarist you like to experiment with your sound. What kind of music do you listen to these days? What are your biggest influences? Tombs have a lot of cool sound effects built by you. What gear do you use and how do you write the songs?
- Mike: I listen to a lot of new and old music. Of course there are the main bands like Black Flag, Sabbath, Slayer, but also bands like My Bloody Valentine, Godflesh, Nadja, Jesu. Lately, I’ve really been into Fields of the Nephilim, The Sisters of Mercy, Joy Division. Other bands that I listen to a lot are Wolves in the Throne Room, Marduk, Leviathan, Circle of Ouroborus and 1349. For gear, I use a mesa boogie dual rectifier and a Musicman HD 130 amp. The effects I use are the Boss RV-5, Boss DD-3 and DD-6 digital delay, Boss Super Chorus, MXR Distortion Plus and the Boss Heavy Metal Pedal. For all of the inter-song textures I use a Digitech Jam Man which stores and plays all the samples.
- Your vocals in Winter Hours seem to be a lot more sentimental. It matches really well with the down tuned guitars and bass and the shoegaze psychedelia you try to build. Was that something that just happened or you planned to do so?
- Mike: I spent a lot of time working on the vocals before we went in to record Winter Hours. I wanted to do more with my vocie besides just scream. I continue to do a lot of work and training with my voice.
- What is going on with Black Box Recordings? Are there any new additions to the roster or new releases in the way? Last one was TOMBS / PLANKS split I think, a ferocious release!
- Mike: I just released a split LP with two UK based bands: Dead in the Woods and Diet Pills. The record seems to be well-received. There’s also going to be the Vasilek release coning out later this year as well as a deluxe repress of the Tombs ep and the songs off of the Planks split. In general, Black Box is going to be primarily an outlet for projects that I’m directly involved with.
- Any plans for the future you could share?
- Mike: We’re focused on writing the new record. We just recently produced a demo of 8 new songs that are meant as a way for us to work on production ideas. On the touring front, we have some US dates with Isis, Eyehategod, Nachtmystium and some other late year plans. As you know, our tour with Mayhem was canceled so that put a damper on any Spring 2010 touring plans.
~ by Θ. on 2010/04/03.